Sunday, September 20, 2009
Cattails - Lin Frye
And so today, I offer these humble cattails and 'ditch' flowers - evidence of the simple joy we take in nature's offering. We'll celebrate by participating in a farm tour - an annual event to showcase our area organic farms and agribusinesses. For dinner, we'll cook the produce we purchase from those who, like us, love living a bit closer to the land.
While cattails may seem an odd choice for a celebration - I offer these humble, often overlooked uses of this roadside dweller: According to Euell Gibbons, whom I admired for his love of the outdoors and recognition of wild foods, cattails are the 'supermarket' of the swamp. Almost all parts of them are edible, and all parts of them are useful:
The rhizome, buried deeply in the muck - can be harvested for the rich flour it produces; the 'potato' like nodules on the roots are harvested and eaten as potatoes, the stalks can be collected in the spring and eaten like water chestnuts, the unripened flowerheads (which later turn brown) can be collected, cooked and eaten like small ears of corn, the pollen can be collected and made into pancakes or used as flour, the seeds can be collected and made into a gruel, the pappus of the seeds (those hairy filaments) were used in WWII to stuff life vests to keep them buoyant, the tall, brown flowers were used to clean chimneys, used in bouquets and flower arrangements, the leaves were woven into mats or used as thatch, and the entire stand of cattails were used to absorb pollutants from lake and river waters.
Amazing - a humble plant and yet filled with so much often overlooked potential. Much like other aspects of the natural world that is often taken for granted until it is gone.